This past weekend was fantastic! Zark and I won the "Best in Breed" award two days. The biggest contributing factor was that I finally understood what behaviors to train for success in the Conformation ring.
If you've ever watched the dog show on TV on Thanksgiving or New Years Day, that's the kind of stuff I'm competing in. We compete in many other dog sports, but since he's a purebred dog, a Beauceron (essentially a French Shepherd) we can compete in conformation.
I will in some future post go on to discuss the importance of the American Kennel Club and what conformation is, but in this post I'll discuss the training involved.
Environmental Preparation - Dog shows are organized chaos, dogs being groomed and hurried around for spa treatments. There's usually more than a couple acres of event space housing the show rings and the handler's setup-- which is kind of like someones is tailgating spot for the layperson. Your puppy should be exposed to busy, loud environments. We dog trainers call this part of developing a dog socialization.
Grooming - short and long coated dogs alike should be trained to not just tolerate, but probably enjoy grooming techniques, including powerful blow dryers, brushing and electric nail files.
Body Handling - Dogs should be trained to be handled, touched and examined by stran
gers. This is a feat that cannot be trained by the owner without help. Dogs need anywhere between 5-20 experiences to generalize training, and all of those need to be consistently pleasant and happy experiences in training.
Trained Behavior: teaching the stand or the 'show stack' to the dog as just another 'trick'. this is a behavior where the dog is taught to stand perfectly balanced. usually the shoulders are square and the dog looks evenly set upon his hind, this makes the dog look regal and balanced. You can train this so that the dog understands the human will set his feet with their hands, but as the dog advances through their show career, having trained a walk up "free-stack" is extremely advantageous and will get you to the higher levels of show.
Gaiting - show dogs should be taught to trot on leash in the style their breed is shown in. I would say "not pulling" but the objective is to showcase how balanced and efficiently the dog moves.
Put all of those things together and you'll have a trained show dog. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a private lesson to work on any of the above skills.